On Monday, the Connecticut Post published Deputy Communications Director for Northeast Charter School Network (NECSN) Michael Shulansky’s response to Wendy Lecker’s latest anti-school choice hit piece. His response is great, in that it calls Lecker’s commentary out for what it is — intellectually dishonest.
Lecker, an attorney for the Education Law Center and columnist for the Stamford Advocate, has long been a critic of charter schools and all things reform. In her latest article she claims that charter schools are less accountable than traditional public schools, holding up Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzel’s recent dismissal of a complaint against Achievement First Bridgeport Academy as proof. As Shulansky points out this is ridiculous:
“It is undeniable that charter schools are the most accountable public schools in Connecticut. If they don’t perform or if they mismanage their finances – they face closure. Period. That can and has happened a number of times in the 20 years since the charter school law was passed
No other public school is held to that level of accountability. Additionally, just last year, legislators strengthened charter laws to ensure financial, academic, and employment performance is even more transparent than it was previously…”
As it turns out, accountability isn’t the only thing Lecker wasn’t being honest about.
Notice how I mention who Shulansky works for. Even though I agree with his analysis, it’s still important for my readers to know that he isn’t a totally disinterested party. Lecker on the other hand failed to mention that the complaint against Achievement First was filed by Robert Traber, sitting president of the Bridgeport Education Association (BEA), which is a local chapter of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA).
In other words, the complaint dismissed by Wentzel was filed by an organization that has, over the past few years, spent boatloads of money lobbying against charter schools, including pushing for a moratorium last year — funny, how none of this mentioned.
Worst yet, she claims that the complaint was “disregarded” by the state. Except that’s not at all what Wentzel says in her letter. Wentzel informed Traber that the complaint was dismissed, but would be taken in consideration during renewal. This is important, because it means if Achievement First doesn’t fully comply with state law, they risk losing their charter, meaning their doors would close, potentially dislocating hundred of Bridgeport children. Tell me the last time a traditional public school faced such stakes?
Not to mention, that despite all her the focus on alleged law-breaking, the school Lecker targets, Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, is one of the highest performing schools in Bridgeport.
Achievement First’s success, and the success of other schools like it, shines light on the fact that Bridgeport children can succeed, despite poverty, their zipc ode or their skin color. That’s why Lecker and her ilk attack these schools. It doesn’t fit their narrative.
This is nothing new for those fighting to deny parents school choice. They use underhanded tactics and flawed logic to make it seem like something nefarious is going on. In reality they’re trying to uphold the status quo.
We have to ask: Why should Bridgeport children be stuck in underperforming schools? Well, it’s because giving Bridgeport parents a choice would mean giving them the power to change their schools.
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